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Use Technology to Boost Hospital Fundraising Efforts


Originally published in the June 2017 AHP Connect.

Fundraising technology is a game changer for hospital fundraising professionals, making it easier to gather, sort and store valuable donor data and insights. Use technology to streamline efficiencies and strengthen donor relationships as you strategically integrate functionality across your systems.

Analyze your data. Fundraising technology makes it easy to track results and provide insights. User-friendly platforms deliver data offering opportunities for fundraisers to make real-time adjustments to their appeals and campaigns that will better resonate with their donor pool.

Offer ways to donate via mobile devices. In 2015, Blackbaud reported that 17% of the Giving Tuesday donations it processed came from mobile devices (1). Convey a sense of urgency along with your needs and encourage quick action with the ‘donate now’ button.

Create technology plans for special events. Incorporate mobile bidding in silent and live auctions to ensure every item has been “spoken for.” Give bidders time to raise more money by opening auctions online in advance of events, creating more excitement and offering non-attendees a chance to donate, as well. Strategic use of technology can also help make the best use of volunteer time. For example, transferring event invitations and pre-registration to an online platform frees up volunteers to spend more time on expanding donor relationships rather than on telephone outreach or tracking mailed RSVPs.

Streamline event registration and event check-in with technology. You’ll reduce the need to recruit multiple volunteers and you’ll help guests avoid long lines at the beginning and end of the occasion. Embrace real-time data to make targeted decisions, such as delivering personalized messages to key donors to encourage higher bidding and make sure all items bring in funds. You might save hours of post-event analysis by accessing accurate reports based on real time check out results. Use these powerful insights to quickly reach out to thank key donors, building stronger more powerful donor relationships.

If events are not a core of your tactical toolkit, crowdfunding offers a new way for donors to get involved. The success of crowdfunding demonstrates that today’s donors want to understand the impact of their dollars on specific projects and programs. Be sure to highlight your needs by emphasizing the impact donations bring to patients. Crowdfunding websites and software allow institutions to use fewer general appeals in favor of more targeted requests for assistance (2).

Hospitals that implement modern tactics may reach and retain more donors and more effectively juggle outreach and relationship building. For example, nonprofits retain only one in five new donors due to negative post-gift experiences. Think about ways to use technology in the service of creative stewardship plans. Try, for example, embed a patient thank you video message in a donor email.1 Bring your appeals and campaigns to life by adding compelling patient stories and images.

Cracking the code of what hospital donors are seeking can be a laborious and often variable process. However, the more multifaceted and customized the approach, the more chances there are of getting it right.




About the Author: Jim Alvarez is the founder and CEO of full-service fundraising technology company Gesture. Gesture has helped nonprofits across the country raise over $300 million since 2011 through the use of technology. Alvarez is the recipient of the Chicago Innovation Award and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award for his innovative idea and launch of Gesture. Alvarez drives the growing company to make hope happen for nonprofits developing innovative ideas that embrace technology.


Download useful tips and tricks on fundraising for Healthcare Foundations here.

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Tip Tuesday: How to Unite your CEO and Nonprofit Board

Through the past six years of working with charity partners of various sizes and structures, we’ve found that some nonprofit executive directors have a difficult time motivating and engaging their board. Think of your organization as a large sailboat. There are many necessary tasks and responsibilities and sailing requires the help of every member on board; some are responsible for steering, others for the angles of the sails, and more for managing the cables and making sure everyone is safe! Without everyone working together, the boat would stay in place or (worse) sink.

It’s the captain’s job to get everyone “on board” with the goal and motivate the crew to keep up their good work despite any hard conditions.

Assign Roles and Committees

Like a boat’s crew is split up so that all of the responsibilities are covered, a board needs to be separated into committees to ensure all tasks are handled. Here are some of the roles or committees you will need when planning a fundraising initiative or event:

  • Auction item procurement: gather popular items like packages and experiences to increase auction revenue. Check with local businesses and Gesture’s Corporate Donation Guide to get an idea of who to ask.
  • Volunteer management: make sure your volunteers know what they should be doing, when they should be doing it, and how to do it!
  • PR/social media: increase donor numbers and donations at your event by getting the word out about your event to the public. Spread the word using popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also reach out to local news sources to see if they can host you to speak more about the event to their audience!
  • Venue logistics: assign a committee to take charge of securing the venue, organizing the catering, bar, furniture, and other key event details to make the day special. This group of people should be highly organized and preferably have experience planning events so that you can be confident nothing will slip through the cracks.
  • Payment/donation management: ensure you have a safe, secure, and easy way for your donors to pay for auction items and make donations throughout the event. Partner with a mobile bidding and fundraising platform like Gesture to make giving easier at your events.

Separate your board based on their abilities and passions. This will make them more excited to tackle their new project and help create an amazing event.

Leverage Passion

Also, keep in mind that each and every board member is part of the organization because they care about the cause you support. Even though it may be hard to motivate them at times, keep in mind that they too want do what they can for your cause and use that as a way to ignite them. When in doubt, remember to SAIL:

S – stay in charge: you are the leader of this ship
A – ask the board for feedback so they feel heard and you can change what’s not working
I – inspire your board with the mission of your organization
L – lead by example: show the board the types of behaviors you are looking for

Using Gesture for your event will help you with more than just payment and donation management. Gesture offers a myriad of services that can help with social media, bidding management, donor logistics, fund-the-need donation campaigns, and more. Learn more about the services Gesture offers and how they can help to make your next fundraising initiative a success here.

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Come One, Come All!

Why Nonprofits Need to Implement Mobile Fundraising Now

Written by Nhu Te for NonProfit Pro June 2017 Edition

Every industry— ours included— is transitioning into a more mobile-focused mindset. We are entering (if we haven’t already) a device-dependent era. Like it or not, the majority of people are attached to their smartphones, tablets, what-have-you. Whether you prefer the traditional way of fundraising (face-to-face), the more advanced way (digital) or a combination of both, we can all agree that technology is taking over the world by storm. While there may be disadvantages to up-and-coming technologies, there are tools out there that help bring nonprofit organizations closer to donors. For instance, let’s take a look at mobile fundraising.

What Makes Mobile Effective?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of things, let’s look at some stats that back up this claim. According to a study by Durham+Company, the use of a mobile device to donate to charities has significantly increased since 2013—a whopping 80 percent. In 2013, about 81 percent of people claimed they used a smartphone or tablet to donate. That number jumped to 93 percent in 2015.

When looking at demographics, Baby Boomers who donated through a mobile device grew from 13 percent to 19 percent in that two-year time frame, while such gifts from Millennials grew from 9 percent to 21 percent.

Transitioning or just making donating to your organization available through mobile would be a smart move for any organization, due to the fact that it’s more convenient. The “2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: US Edition” from Deloitte found that Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up and at an average of 47 times per day—that number almost doubles to 82 times among those between the ages of 18 and 24.

David Heitman, VP of communications at Wiland, believes that mobile is the most direct route to donors’ daily lives.

“When a device becomes ever-present like this in the lives of donors and prospects, it’s essential to be there to connect with your message and appeals. This ubiquity of smartphone use is good justification for having a mobile-first strategy for marketing and fundraising,” he said.

Like I said before, one of the things I do on my device is check my email. The mail application might be the most used on my phone. Why? Well, because I get a buzz or a ding every time a new email comes in. It’s second-nature for me to check it. And I’m sure donors are doing the same thing, so it’s important for organizations to implement a good email strategy for reaching their donors, because a bad email can send donors running in the opposite direction.

“For nonprofits using email to reach their donors, mobile is crucial because most emails are now opened first on mobile devices. That puts a nonprofit just a click away from having a meaningful interaction with prospective and current donors for whom they have email addresses,” he said. “This also means that email design and website design should be optimized for mobile. A poor mobile experience sends a bad message about a nonprofit’s professionalism. In fact, something as simple as page-load time can have a huge impact on response.”

When you think in terms of fundraising events, the single most important thing is that the donors have a great experience. If the donors do not have a pleasant experience, they will not donate—or worse, they will not come to another event. Enabling mobile fundraising at your event will aid in giving donors the best experience possible.

“What mobile fundraising allows you to do is streamline the event and just make it seamless for donors to be able to give,” Jim Alvarez, founder and CEO of Gesture, told us in an interview. “[Mobile fundraising] allows a person to give freely and easily. It increases the overall donor experience and by doing so, you’re able to have a much higher retention rate for donors and that’s probably the single most important thing for nonprofits.”

Mobile fundraising also eases the staff’s workload. Before the mobile technology, events were organized and managed by paper and pen. Now, everything is electronic, so everything that you need to know—registration, where people are sitting, how much everyone owes at the end of the night—is all in one place.

Tactics for Success

Feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, is how anyone or any organization can learn and grow. We implement a plan that we think is fool-proof, and maybe it fails—but that’s OK, because we can’t learn to succeed if we don’t know what works for our organization and what doesn’t.

One strategy that you can implement is people-based marketing. With this strategy, you are identifying and reaching individual donors, as opposed to a strategy such as broadcast media.

“For people-based marketing to work, you need data about the individuals you want to reach,” Heitman said. “Then you need technology partners who can help you reach these prospects and donors on their smartphones. Companies, like LiveRamp, have the ability to match CRM or donor data with device IDs, enabling you to deliver ads to specific individuals, at large scale, but in a way that respects privacy by anonymizing the data.”

There is also the issue of how much you need spend to reach various segments of your audience, and that’s when you can start with recency, frequency, monetary. This is where you spend more to reach high-value donors rather than low-value donors, Heitman notes.

“That can then be translated into proportional bidding in programmatic ad platforms. It’s really not much different than the direct mail channel, where you invest more to reach your most promising repeat donors. Now, all the infrastructure is in place to take the same highly personalized approach in digital channels, including mobile,” he said.

One of the challenges of this strategy is the “match rate” delivered by on-boarding partners. Although you may have a great donor or prospecting list, the on-boarding provider may only be able to match half of them to their device IDs. The other challenge is that people-based marketing requires substantial commitment. This commitment requires you “to study the data, test how deeply you can go with various audience segments and compare results with campaign efforts,” according to Heitman.

Hosting an auction is a beneficial strategy organizations can use to raise money and cause awareness, engage and connect with donors and incorporate mobile fundraising. When it comes to auctions, mobile fundraising allows organizations to do three things:

  1. Open their auction up ahead of time. This gives donors more time and opportunity to participate and donate. But it also does not limit the auction to only those available to attend the live event. So now, those who are unable to attend the auction can donate through a click of a button on their smartphones or tablets.
  2. Send their participants notifications. Mobile fundraising allows nonprofits to send their participants—those who are able to attend the event or those participating remotely—notifications on their smartphones or tablets. Alvarez says the greatest way to increase giving is to notify people who are bidding that they have been outbid.
  3. Collect payments at the end of the night. One of the past hurdles of auctions was that when people bid on items at an event, they oftentimes forget to pay for the items, so the nonprofit will have to track them down. Now with mobile fundraising, organizations are able to collect payments with one click of a button.

The challenges that Alvarez and his team at Gesture face with mobile fundraising are:

  1. The squeaky wheel. When presenting to a board, there’s almost always going to be one person (the squeaky wheel) on the board who does not see a reason to change and does not see how implementing mobile fundraising will make a difference.
  2. Attendee participation. Due to the fact that mobile fundraising is mostly done through a smartphone, a lot of charities do not want their guests looking down at their phone the entire night. But Alvarez said that the reality is that people will be looking down at their phones, anyway. “I always remind our charity partners that if they are looking down at their phones that means they are looking at doing some kind of fundraising, and that’s a good takeaway. Your goal as a fundraiser is to raise as much money as possible and you know what, this really works,” he said.

New Era of Giving

Of all donations in 2016, 17 percent were given through a mobile device (vs. 14 percent in 2015 and 9 percent in 2014). On this past Giving Tuesday, 22 percent of all donations were sent through a mobile device.

The way people give has changed drastically and is much different from what it was years ago, and people prefer to give through mobile devices. Like I said before, it’s more convenient. According to the “2016 Charitable Giving Report,” being mobile-friendly is no longer an option. Blackbaud recommends a multi-step approach that includes mobile-friendly email messages, websites and donation forms. The combination of all of these approaches will maximize the giving experience for supporters.

“I think that if a charity is not thinking mobile-friendly, then they are missing out,” Alvarez said. The whole world is going to this device that’s in your pocket, and if you’re not capitalizing on the fact that every single person in the U.S. has one of these, then you’re missing the boat.” NPPro


View the full magazine here and learn more about Gesture’s products and services here.

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National Cancer Survivor Day

National Cancer Survivor Day 2017 falls on Sunday, June 4th. Each year, this day is a day to honor those who have won their battle with cancer. This year is special because it marks the 30th annual day, and in the spirit of the day, Gesture would like to both celebrate and praise those who persevered and made hope happen. To the survivors who went toe to toe with countless rounds of radiation, contested and conquered chemo, and ultimately won the fight with the devastating disease that is cancer: we pay homage to you.

About National Cancer Survivor Day:

This day is a time when  “tens of thousands of people across the globe will gather in their local communities to honor cancer survivors and raise awareness of the ongoing challenges of cancer survivorship.” (NCSD 1).

We strive to make hope happen for all and we believe in the liberation that comes from the act of giving and the power of inspiration.At Gesture, we find a tremendous amount of inspiration in the stories of those who won the title of survivor. The survivor, the victor, has liberated his or herself through sheer fight, willingness, determination, and most of all, hope. And to that we congratulate and commend all.

“National Cancer Survivors Day presents an opportunity for all people living with a history of cancer to connect with each other, celebrate milestones, and recognize those who have supported them along the way. It is also a day to draw attention to the ongoing challenges of cancer survivorship with the aim of promoting more resources, research, and survivor-friendly legislation to improve cancer survivors’ quality of life” (NCSD 2).

We are fortunate enough to work alongside many cancer support centers and charity organizations in order to bring hope to their already hopeful communities. These great institutions contribute to keeping the hope alive in the hearts and souls of those who are faced with the battle against cancer. The children, the men, the women, the families, and the supporters of these organizations can attest to the power of inspiration through giving and sharing the stories of their survivors. We are overjoyed to extend our expertise to any and every organization. Organizations that support cancer research, cancer recovery, and survivorship among communities have found our technologies and assistance extremely helpful.

Gesture Charity Partners:

A few organizations we have the pleasure of working with are Cancer Kiss My Cooley, The St. Louis Men’s Group Against Cancer, and the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation.

Cancer Kiss My Cooley:

Cancer Kiss My Cooley’s 2017 KISS IT Gala raised $231,000 for their cause! They grant “Kisses of HOPE” which are special moments or experiences for pediatric brain tumor patients and their families. Read more about this program here. They’ve partnered with Gesture since 2015 and say: “Your assistance with our silent auction and raffle items brought in way more money than we have in years past, and we appreciate your assistance to raise money for our Kiss of HOPE™ program to help kids battling brain cancer. I have no doubt that having you there made a huge difference in the amount of money we were able to raise at our event!” Read their full testimonial letter here.

Image Credit: Cancer Kiss my Cooley


St. Louis Men’s Group Against Cancer:

The St. Louis Men’s Group Against Cancer has also been a long-time partner with Gesture, working with us to make hope happen since 2013. Their annual dinner started in 1980 and has run every year since. The implementation of new technology for the event wasn’t challenging at all: “the committee and guests all enjoyed the ‘new’ spirit you brought to our dinner. Your professionalism was obvious and your patience with all of us was exceptional.” Read their full testimonial letter here.

Image Credit: St. Louis Men’s Group Against Cancer


Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation:

Gesture is also lucky to partner closely with the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation which raises money to fight cancer through various fundraisers throughout the year. This year, their Cook-Off for Cancer raised over $1.1 million which will be donated to cancer research organizations as well as support children battling cancer and their families.

Image Credit: Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation

We encourage you to check out these organizations and the great work they are doing in their communities. Cancer isn’t something that can be fought alone; we need to fight it together.

Gesture has always instilled and fostered a positive attitude when assisting in the events at hand. We truly enjoy making things as easy as possible for both hosts and attendees. Making hope happen has become so much more than a slogan to us, it has become a way of conducting ourselves throughout our everyday life. The opportunity to take the stage and display that ideology through assisting you at your events is where we strive.

So in celebration of hope, we turn our thoughts and praises towards those survivors who won the fight against the devastation that cancer is known for. On this day we celebrate all people living with a history of cancer and call upon them to connect with one another, celebrate milestones, and recognize those who have supported them along the way. On Sunday, June 4th, join us as we commend and praise those who persevered and made hope happen.

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Gesture Observes Mental Health Awareness Month

Since 1949, National Mental Health Awareness Month (also known as Mental Health Month) has been observed in the month of May. During this month, organizations working to create awareness around mental health spread the word about mental health through word of mouth, the media, local events, and more.

One in five U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and nearly everyone is impacted by mental illness affecting those they are close to. This month is a key time of year for organizations that take action on mental health issues in both local communities and on a national level to gather support and awareness.

Here are some ways that local and national organizations dedicated to helping those with mental illnesses can use this month as an opportunity to gain awareness of their organization:

  1. Use hashtags to reach out to those who are interested in your cause on social media. For Mental Health Month, use #BH365 (Behavioral Health 365) and #MHM2017 (Mental Health Month 2017) or #MentalHealthMonth. Tagging posts and photos will connect you to like-minded people who may be interested in donating to your organization or attending your next event!
  2. Create content that will both interest and help readers. As the experts on mental health, no organization is in a better place to advise on ways to approach someone with a mental illness or recognize warning signs than you. Use your expertise to create content that will be helpful to anyone in need of information as well as attract viewers to your website!
  3. Reach out to local news or media and offer/ask to participate in an interview. This will allow you to spread word about the importance of your organization’s work in the realm of mental health to a broad audience. You can also use this opportunity to put a plug in for your next/upcoming event!
  4. Encourage your staff and volunteers to share personal stories related to mental illness. At Gesture, we hear too often from organizations that one of the largest challenges they face is the stigma against mental illness and receiving help for it. If your staff and volunteer members feel comfortable, ask them to share with their friends, family, and/or followers why they’re dedicated to the cause.

Gesture makes it easier for organizations to focus on their important work in communities instead of focusing on fundraising logistics.

One organization we work with is Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri, based in St. Louis, MO. A long-time partner, they say:


“Thank you for all the work you did in preparing us for our first-ever bidding by phone event. It was a true partnership and your team at Gesture was top-notch.

We are a small agency – full staff of nine – and knew we needed professional help to make the event run smoothly, especially for check-in and check-out. Gesture was, in a word, fantastic. Check-in was super smooth and check-out was a dream, even with guests trying to make a quick escape due to an unexpected snow fall.

The auction itself was a very nice success and our guests loved bidding by phone. Time and time again we heard, “it’s so easy and fun to bid.” It truly is easy and your staff was very attentive to those who needed bidding assistance. You kept telling us not to worry because it’s such a simple process and, of course, you were right.

We don’t want to do another gala without you.”


Thanks to Gesture’s easy-to-use product, Mental Health America is able to focus on their guests at events, and worry less about registration, check-in and check-out, bidding, and product help.

See more about Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri here.


If you are passionate about the missions of Mental Health America and like organizations, Gesture encourages you to reach out to local organizations and donate to their cause! Tell them Gesture sent you.


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Six Tools to Amplify Your Fundraising Efforts

Any successful nonprofit can tell you that to retain its donors and recruit new members, they need to pay attention to new marketing trends. Today, studies show that 86% of nonprofits use social media to market their organization, 27% use mobile content, and 20% use mobile apps.

Nonprofit organizations should expect to see mobile-related numbers increase in the coming years as marketing in general shifts towards mobile. The goal of any nonprofit is to be able to serve its public and fulfill its mission. In order to do that, they need to run successful fundraising campaigns utilizing various tools and platforms.

Here are six tools that help nonprofits meet their fundraising goals:



1. Social Media

Social media isn’t just for selfies. If your nonprofit doesn’t have a Facebook page or Twitter account, you should get on it. In fact, Instagram is also growing in popularity and nonprofits are taking advantage of the impact of visual images to mobilize people to donate. Here are some tips on how to maximize your fundraising on each:

  • Facebook. It’s easy. Facebook added a “Donate Now” button that all nonprofits can add as a call-to-action button on their page. It promises a one-stop, secure donation platform.
  • Twitter. Make sure you create a hashtag for your donation drive and/or nonprofit. Encourage those who donate to share the hashtag. That way you can spread the word further and also track shares and tweets about your nonprofit.
  • Instagram. Use this platform to post photos that create an impact. Demonstrate the needs of the community that the donations will serve. Show photos of donations in action, so your supporters can see the results of their contributions.


2. Email

Email is a popular communication channel that can’t be ignored for fundraising efforts. People are often more open to leaving their email address in the Contact Info field than to sharing their mobile number with organizations.

With tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact you can easily systemize your contact lists, segment them, customize email templates for different campaigns, and schedule messages.

Keep in mind that your donors can open emails on mobile, so keep your subject lines short and sweet, and include big and clear call-to-action buttons.


3. Event Management Software

An often overlooked strategy when it comes to fundraising, but easy-to-use and effective, event management software can make a difference with ticket sales and overall donor experience. Making it easy for donors to buy a ticket and access information about the event means higher conversions. You can check out Gesture’s Guest Management platform which helps you keep track of ticket sales, donations, and other fundraising efforts in real-time. 


4. Mobile Optimization and Bidding

As the world moves more and more towards mobile domination, it’s come to the point where nobody can afford to ignore mobile optimization anymore. People are trained for rapid responses and streamlined mobile experiences.

If your nonprofit’s mobile site doesn’t load fast enough or make it easy to donate through mobile, you’re losing out to other nonprofits who are mobile ready.

Mobile users behave differently than desktop users, so your mobile site has to reflect that. Make the following adjustments to your mobile site:

  • Less images for faster loading time.
  • Shorter text that fits easily on a smaller screen.
  • Accordion menus to economize space on the screen.
  • Shortened sign-up forms that make it easier to fill out on a mobile device.
  • Prominent call-to-action button (like “Donate Today”).

If your organization offers mobile bidding, you will be able to quickly capture donations and bids for auctions from donors’ phones. Partner with an organization that offers mobile bidding and fundraising technology, like Gesture, in order to manage the implementation and processing of mobile bids and donations.


5. Texting

Texting works well as a donation platform in a world that is increasingly mobile dependent. In fact, since last year there was a 205% increase in mobile donations. People are more likely to respond to a text than they are to an email or annual report.

Text-to-give has had some incredible results, the most famous campaign being the Red Cross’s earthquake relief drive for Haiti that raised $32 million via text donations. You can try Gesture to enable your attendees to donate directly from their mobile devices.

Also, text messaging is a great way to grow the number of attendees at your fundraising events, and this leads to the increase of your donation income. For example, by using TextMagic SMS software, SAWA-Australia sent event alerts to their supporters and increased ticket sales that way, while People In Need were able to stay in contact with their volunteers.


6. Social Website Partnerships

Welzoo is a website that’s dedicated to nonprofits; users just need to make it a start page in their browser. Visitors can pick their favorite nonprofit or submit their own nonprofit as their preferred organization.

Each time you go online with Welzoo, they make a donation to your nonprofit (maximum donation of 6 cents/day per person). By having organization members, staff, and supporters use this site, your donations can start to add up.

Every nonprofit wants to meet their fundraising goals to improve the conditions of the people or environment they serve. With effective marketing tools, fundraising events are more successful, helping to build the resources and reputation of your organization. Use these tools to inspire both new and old donors to give.

Tracy Blanchard is a seasoned writer and blogger. She covers various topics from nonprofit marketing to productivity hacks to customer loyalty building. You can reach her on LinkedIn.

Tracy Blanchard

Tracy Blanchard

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Capturing the fundraising power of millennials

Millennials — otherwise known as Generation Y, digital natives, Generation Me, Generation Rent and echo boomers — are generally defined as those born roughly between 1980 and 2000. The group is increasingly making their presence known with an estimated 75.4 million millennials currently living in the United States.

Millennials are now commanding the largest wallet power of any generation, with estimates of $200 billion annually for 2017 and $10 trillion over their lifetimes as consumers. Many for-profit companies are taking notice of generation’s market power, yet many nonprofits lag behind and need to refocus efforts to embrace and engage the new largest generation to capture their potential fundraising power.

Charitable organizations, including cultural centers, hospitals and social service agencies, herald myriad causes — many that appeal to the millennial generation. Millennials can be passionate about causes, particularly those that impact others. They are drawn to causes that make a difference and desire to become part of something that offers a lasting, powerful impact.

Embrace involvement

Millennials like to learn more before they commit to engaging or donating to causes. They seek more information about what a nonprofit does, who they help and how they work. Millennials also enjoy experiential activities. They look for ways to become involved with nonprofits through an activity, event or other hands-on volunteer opportunity as a way of better understanding the mission.

Be welcoming. Invite millennials to learn about a nonprofit’s good work through involvement. Include the generation in planning a fundraiser, friendraiser or annual drive. Assign specific tasks at your next activity. Embrace millennials’ resolve to become involved, and you’ll not only gain more hands-on help but also a chance to nurture and build a future board of directors and future mid-level donors.

Millennials offer fresh faces at fundraising activities helping even the most celebrated 25th-anniversary event feel new and exciting. As a major part of today’s workforce, millennials may open doors to new networks of individual, group or employer-based donors.

Connect with millennials to identify new ways to share your cause to funding resources. The tech-focused generation may be connected to younger companies that are growing faster than ever before and may be seeking to partner with charitable organizations.

Connect through technology

Most millennials are native tech users and constantly remain connected to people, information and organizations. They grew up using smartphones, laptops and tablets. Constant connectedness is a fact of life, and millennials prefer instant access to technology. Millennials elect to seek information on the spur of the moment through their smartphone or tablet device desiring immediate answers to questions.

Millennials are also social both online and offline and enjoy sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Take advantage of their vast social networks and provide ways to reach and build loyal next generation donors.

Use technology to push stories about your organization via social media platforms, making it easy for millennials to find out about you and then share your stories, helping you to quickly build a circle of followers via Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat postings and shares. Nonprofits need to become more attuned to using engagement tactics to help expand donor databases with the expansive millennial generation market.

Use storytelling techniques. Use social media to further your cause by telling stories. Post pictures. Integrate videos into your communication. Feature the people who’ve benefited from your services.

Draw a direct line between your mission and the work you’re doing. Websites and information materials must tell stories about the immediacy of the work an organization is doing. Messages can be crafted featuring those you help a well as messages from important people connected to the cause sharing their inspiration to support and give.

Ignite donations

Embrace technology by incorporating it into everything you do. You’ll reap the benefits of streamlining efforts and uncover information you can put to good use with donor profiles and planning.

Become mobile friendly. Make sure your website is a mobile-based so it is easy to view, read and access at any time on any device. Be sure to prominently display the donate button, making it easy to give.

Be sure to give clear meaning to other call to actions such as ways to volunteer, spread the word or download specific materials. Integrate technology into fundraising processes to unleash efficient systems that will help you save time and help you raise more money.

Re-examine your fundraising activities. Make it easy and convenient for guests to donate. Digital-centric millennials prefer online and mobile options to purchase event tickets, or register to volunteer or participate in activities like silent or live auctions.

Make it exciting. Use technology to drive incentives to the event participants. Look for more revenue streams by including options off-site or remote participation to help increase donations and spur up demand at an actual event.

Technology provides valuable back-end support to donor database, volunteer and event management and creating reports. Modern tools help free up valuable resources better spent engaging more donors and igniting a continual flow of support and fresh prospects. Technology helps reduce costs and streamlines many fundraising pain points into a simplified more productive process.

Nonprofits that take notice of millennials behaviors and preferences by embracing more hands-on involvement, interaction via social media and mobile friendly websites can open the door to more revenue both now and in the future.

About the Author

Jim Alvarez is the founder and CEO of full-service fundraising technology company Gesture. Gesture has helped nonprofits across the country raise over $300 million since 2011 through the use of technology. Alvarez is the recipient of the Chicago Innovation Award and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award for his innovative idea and launch of Gesture. Alvarez drives the growing company to make hope happen for nonprofits developing innovative ideas that embrace technology.

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Hear From Our Team


Many healthcare organizations have fundraising for their cause down to a science. For the most part, their process of obtaining funds through donors and sponsors run without a hitch. Sadly, in this technologically evolving time, some institutions still fall short of goals that are within reach. At Gesture, our team of Account Managers always share some helpful insight that would not only ensure seamless fundraisers, but maximize funding across the board.

The traditional modes of fundraising that institutions such as hospitals use include: cocktail nights, casino nights, a physical paddle raise, and of course larger scale annual galas. Although these are already great ways to raise money, our Account Managers provided us with small, simple tips to improve on these methods that could significantly increase funding opportunities.

Here are a couple quick tips:

  1. Open your silent auction early! If silent auctions are opened earlier not only will there be more time for donors to explore auction items, but there will be more time for the bid price to increase to maximize funding opportunities.
  2. It is important to keep in mind that more able and willing donors appreciate and look forward to higher end galas and dinners to attend. This reinforces the importance of black tie events for hospitals because bigger budget galas attract larger income donors. Nothing makes a premium impression like glitz and glamour.
  3. It is imperative that an institution such as a hospital interacts with a vast audience. Hospitals influence communities, draw a large donor base, and even benefit from brand recognition. This can and will play as an advantage when seeking donations, funding, and sponsorships. Corporate Donation Guide
  4. Items such as extravagant trips and cruises bring in a significant amount of attention and bidding competition from willing donors. In addition to these trips, VIP experiences at award shows, back stage passes at concerts, club level seating at sporting events, and meet and greets with celebrities were highly valued items.
  5. You may not have contact information for all of your guests and supporters, so be sure to promote via social media. If you have celebrity or high end connections ask for a simple retweet and share on their social media. Sponsors should also be mentioned and asked so they can spread the word and utilize their own networks to support your cause.


We hope that our Account Managers were able to provide you with some helpful insight that will assist you in hosting smooth and successful fundraisers for years to come. Applying their observations and small improvements to traditional methods of fundraising can and will help your institution reach its goals and make hope happen.


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Don’t Get Lost In The Madness




March is filled with excitement and the country will have its eyes on the Final Four and their upcoming games. With this in mind, here are three tips to avoid getting lost in the mix of the March Madness and create some fun fundraising campaigns around this monumental event.


  1. Treat social media as a platform, not a promotional tool: Social Media will be filled with March Madness talk. Instead of being one of the many posting the same old puns and plays on words, create buzz around your cause with specific and positive messaging that draws in a reader to become passionate or increase their support for your cause.
  2. Tell a Compelling Story: They call it March Madness because there is a buzz in the air and the excitement is overwhelming. Stories run rampant around the teams that are participating, many of which are heart-warming in nature. Position your message to connect with active and inactive donors. Tell your story via social media and your public website. This is a great time to film an uplifting video or publish a story about how you are making an impact.
  3. Participate or Invite Donors to Participate in a Bracket Fun-draiser: There are tons of people looking for different ways to participate in the madness of March. Create a pool or some type of bracket game around the tournament where the proceeds will proportionally go back to your organization, but the winner can get something cool! Maybe an auction item that did not sell at your event or was recently donated.

Our team is always looking to provide more insights on how to raise more, but if you have questions or thoughts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at


Enjoy the madness!

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Gesture Team Member Spotlight – Erin Phillips

Gesture Team Member Spotlight



Erin Phillips

Senior Account Manager, Chicago, IL


Erin has been with Gesture for four years, since she first started as a Gesture Pro in May 2012. In her current role as Senior Account Manager, Erin manages a team of Account Managers (AMs). These AMs work directly with our charity partners to provide support and guidance as they prepare for their fundraisers and auctions.

What initially drew you to Gesture?
I worked my first event as a Gesture Pro in May of 2012. At the time, there were only a handful of full time employees and I agreed to work a few events to help out a friend. I was working a full-time job but thought it would be a great idea to try something new on my days off.

It only took one event for me to see the impact the Gesture team and technology had on the success of the organization’s fundraising. Not only were the donors having fun, but the client gave hugs all around for making their lives easier as well. From then on, I was hooked! I quickly realized that this is exactly where I needed to be.

What positions have you held as a Gesture employee? How did it lead you to the position you currently hold?
I went from a Gesture Pro to an On-Site Manager to an Event Production Manager and then to my current role as a Senior Account Manager. It sounds like a lot when you jot it down, but really it’s been a natural transition seeing the full scope of the event from all sides!

Tell us a little bit about what it’s like watching the company grow from your perspective.
There are so many times where you’ll hear someone referencing the “old days” but what’s funny is the quote unquote old days that they are referencing might have only been a year ago. That’s a testament to how quickly things at Gesture grow. It’s been so exciting to grow with a company that’s always innovating.

What is your favorite part about working at Gesture?
Each day is another opportunity to help charities exceed their fundraising goals. Gesture’s mission, combined with working with technology and the best team ever, makes each day worth coming back for!

How many events have you worked?
I’ve worked on-site at 100+ events and have been the Production Manager behind the scenes for nearly 300.

What has been your favorite event, and why?
Each March Ronald McDonald House Charities Chicago hosts their annual gala and I make it a point to be able to go. They do a great job keeping things light and fun but ensuring that guests know their mission and reason for opening up their hearts (and wallets) that evening. I also love attending school events. One of my favorites was themed “College Days.” The parents got to dress in their spirit wear and play all their favorite college games all while raising money for their kid’s school.

What would your co-workers be surprised to learn about you?
I show pictures and talk about my English Bulldog all the time. I think they’d be surprised to know that up until a year ago I was actually scared of dogs. I never imagined myself getting my own!

When you’re not at work, what do you do to keep busy?
I spend as much time as I can with my 3 year old nephew and 1 year old niece. They are a handful but so funny and so much fun! If I’m not with them you can probably find me picking up knick knacks at Homegoods!

When you were a kid, what was your dream job?
Olympic gymnast. Things obviously took a turn along the way.

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Stories of Hope

ama_bannerIn 1964, more than half the deaths in the U.S. were caused by cardiovascular disease. In response, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson designated February as American Heart Month in order to spread awareness about the various heart diseases and their causes, as well as all the ways they can be prevented.

The month-long event is still relevant today, as heart disease and stroke are still the leading causes of death for both men and women in America. However, this often can be prevented when people are educated and know how to make healthy choices.

Gesture is proud to partner with organizations across the country that provide services to those struggling with heart disease, offer programs that educate the public on heart disease prevention, conduct research for cures for the various cardiovascular diseases, and so much more. The organizations below are three of many!

Stories of Hope American Heart Month - American Heart Association LogoAmerican Heart Association

Mission: To build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

The American Heart Association (AHA) is the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Since 1924, the AHA has grown and now includes 156 local offices. They also created the American Stroke Association in 1997.

They offer:

  • CPR training
  • Education on the importance of healthy lifestyle choices
  • Guidelines for healthcare professionals that help them provide quality care to their patients
  • Education for lawmakers, policymakers, and the public as they advocate for changes to protect and improve the health of our country

Gesture has partnered with various chapters of the American Heart Association and has helped them raise nearly $2.2 million for their cause.

You can learn more about the organization on their website.

Stories of Hope American Heart Month - The Children's Foundation logoThe Children’s Heart Foundation

Mission: The Children’s Heart Foundation (CHF) is a not-for-profit organization that funds the most promising research to advance the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of congenital heart defects (CHD).

Betsy and Steve Peterson founded the Children’s Heart Foundation in 1996 in honor of their son, Sam, who died of multiple organ failure brought on by a sudden heart-related collapse when he was eight. CHF is the country’s leading organization solely committed to CHD research funding. They also collaborate with other organizations in the congenital heart defect landscape to plan events dedicated to raising funds for research, lead advocacy efforts with a legislative conference in Washington, DC, and more.

Gesture began its partnership with the Children’s Heart Foundation in 2016 and has helped them raise more than $321,000.

Learn more about the Children’s Heart Foundation on their website.

Additional Organizations

Gesture also partners with smaller, local organizations that support families dealing with heart disease. These organizations include:

  • Jessie’s Heart Foundation provides support for children with heart disease that reduces emotional, physical and financial stress for the family.
  • The Greg Olsen Foundation Receptions for Research has a program called The HEARTest Yard. This program supports families of children with congenital heart disease who are treated at Levine Children’s Hospital in North Carolina.
  • Saving Tiny Hearts Society is passionately dedicated to eliminating Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) as a major health concern. They fund revolutionary life-saving research for the #1 Birth Defect worldwide, to improve, prolong and save the lives of countless children born with CHD.

In total, Gesture helped these organizations raise $364,200 in 2016.

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Chicago Animal Welfare Organizations Turn to Technology to Meet Their Fundraising Goals

Animal welfare organizations nationwide are working towards ending overpopulation of homeless animals and building No Kill communities. Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl reminds us of the importance of the effort as Chicagoans cheered on shelter dog Foster (pictured), from Chicago’s One Tail at A Time, no-kill nonprofit, who represented team Ruff in the annual event this year.

Animal Planet - Foster

Mobile fundraising technology company Gesture is a proud supporter and partner of animal welfare organizations such as One Tail at a Time, PAWS Chicago and many other humane societies across the country. Since its inception in 2011, Gesture has worked with more than 25 animal-welfare organizations and has helped raise more than $5.5 million for their causes.

“Many animal welfare organizations began as grassroots organizations that grew into small, local nonprofits providing essential services in communities across the country,” shares Gesture’s CEO and founder Jim Alvarez. “We are grateful for the chance to help animal welfare organizations reach their fundraising goals and make giving to their cause accessible to a wider audience,” adds Alvarez.

One of Gesture’s largest animal welfare charity partners is PAWS Chicago. Working together since 2014, Gesture has helped PAWS Chicago raise nearly $2.5 million across multiple fundraising events.

“Since 1997 when PAWS Chicago opened its doors, Chicago has seen over an 80 percent drop in the number of pets euthanized. This takes hard work from a small staff, large volunteer force and donations from our community of supporters. Partnering with Gesture has helped us increase funds raised at our signature events so that we can continue to save the lives of more homeless cats and dogs,” says PAWS Chicago Founder Paula Fasseas.

A partnership with Gesture makes it easy for donors to give to their favorite organizations and makes it easy for organizations to reach donors where they’re most engaged: on their mobile devices.

Nonprofit charity partners are raising more money through an innovative, easy-to-use platform packed with tools that make it possible for nonprofits to integrate technology into all aspects of their fundraising campaigns. The efficient technology platform allows charity partners to streamline fundraising functions enabling them to fully manage and drive successful campaigns. Gesture’s platform enables ticket sales, registration and guest management, the ability to host silent auctions with mobile bidding, manage live appeals and auctions, text to give campaigns and various other fundraising campaigns.

Animal welfare organizations and other nonprofits interested in learning more about how Gesture can help jumpstart 2017 fundraising can contact them by calling 888-748-2323 or filling out this form.

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Gesture Products

Make Hope Happen
is more than just a motto.

People want to act on what’s important to them, to contribute to the success of something that matters. But often the business of charity interferes with the experience of giving. Since 2011, we’ve partnered with organizations to capture each helping hand, each friendly smile, and each round of applause by turning inspiration into action.

Meet Our People

1,000+ Organizations have trusted Gesture nationwide

Read What Our Partners Say
Gesture partners with many different nonprofit and charity groups all across the country

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Let’s make hope happen!